Friday, 8th August 2003, 12:30pm
An opinion by: Nette

Possession by Neil Labute

I recently finished reading Babel Tower by A.S. Byatt, so when I realized that Possession was based on another of her books, I was intrigued. I almost always love literary films. However, my mother had mentioned that she'd found this film excruciatingly dull, but I attributed that to all the British poetry. Maybe lots of old English turned her off?

This is a poetic mystery story, so what could be wrong with that? In fact, the movie did drag along as much as its heavy soundtrack music, with Gwyneth Paltrow and her practiced English accent not really grabbing my affection as a feminist literary expert. And our scruffy American hero, with his terribly accurate academic wardrobe of saggy sweaters, also left me disinterested. They chase down a story of an unlikely love affair between two Victorian poets, a story uncovered through hidden letters and this chase inspires attraction and angst between them. But it is never entirely clear to us what that angst is about. Why do I feel so sure that we would know all of that in the novel, instead of the edited cinematic version? Because I know what a detailed, fabulous writer A.S. Byatt is.

It is pretty easy to get swept up in excitement over letters and poetic love while you are reading, but it doesn't provide enough momentum to keep two characters racing about on the big screen. So now instead of wanting to read the book because the movie was so inspiring, I want to read the book because the movie was so hollow that I am sure the blanks would be filled if I went to the source. Kind of like the characters here want to do in their quest. Learning by imitation, ha.

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